Book Review: The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange get Engineered Away

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian StoriesBrave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories by John Joseph Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First I must tell you of Kwai-Chang Caine, because you do not know him. You have to be like this humble traveler, ancient and wise. Kwai-Chang you see, is from before, not just from before now, but also from far away. He was trained in Shangri-La, by Bruce Lee and Ghandi to be the world's gentlest and most badass man. He walked the earth, through California's blistering gold rush, and he carried a flute.

Now, The Man ran the railroad, and the saloon, and the ranches, and he did weigh heavy on the souls of little people, of whom gentle Kwai-Chang was one, but his (K-C's) heart was light, and he could bear any oppression, because that sadistic little monk who still reappeared in visions, called our man Caine "glashoppah" and made him lift a brazier of burning hot coals with his lily white forearms. After that, pain don't hurt.

But sometimes ye Man would oppress an innocent and Kwai-Chang Caine's spirit would be roused to soulful sadness, "good sirs, must you not unhand the lady, so that she can give her lame dog some of that tepid water?"

"Get lost, chinaman!"

"But sirs, the mountain cannot stand against the water...?"

"I kin see I'm-a gonna teach you some manners, slant-o!" (swings rifle butt, aiming to maim.)

But here gentle Kwai-Chang acts unconsciously and with fluid ease of one thousand such attacks, lifting his shin (which is harder than the rifle barrel) to snap the gun in half, whilst pivoting and gently crushing the man's nose with his palm, simultaneously buckling the whole saloon porch onto the slow-moving ruffian gang by kicking the (8" diameter spruce) supporting timber into matchsticks with his bare foot. Next he helps up poor bloody-nose and gently brushes the cowshit from his lapels.

"I am sorry, you are truly a mountain amongst men."
"Maam, allow your dog to drink my water, for I can go a few more days without."
and walks into the sunset.

So you see, this was a TV show to give heart to downtrodden nerds everywhere and we never missed an episode.

Finally, to Brave New Worlds. Around page 200 by Cory Doctorow is "The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away" wherein the story of Kwai-Chang Caine is reprised. It is exact. You have the joy of the simple nerd made hard unto invulnerability by years of training which in this case consists of extreme programming and handball. Like Caine, he transcends his training and is sent out into the big ugly world of which he has no experience, but he, and the Man who oppresseth him, will find out that a decade of monk's training goes a long way when the fisticuffs start. It's Jesus meets Hiro Protagonist and I'm cheering all the way.

Then, to fit in the dystopia theme (& you had ta' see it coming,) some reality sets in. Our guy does not win, quite, but he does not forsake the Holy Order, either. Caine would be proud. It's a great story.

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